Opinion | Samsung's new devices are a poor joke and the base Note 10 is the punchline
Four days ago, Samsung finally launched the Galaxy Note 10 phones. For the first time, the company released two Note devices, much in the same way it launched three Galaxy S10 phones earlier in the year. Sadly, while the S10 trio has received positive reviews across the board—indeed, we’re big fans of the devices—the Note 10 duo is, well, not quite as impressive.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note series has a reputation of being the absolute best Android phones on the market, with hardware that could make the gods of Olympus themselves cower in fear at the outrageous ingenuity of man. Those days may be behind us. The Galaxy Note 10 fails to live up to the lofty expectations that have come to be placed on Samsung’s magnum opus.
Gone are the days when a Note owner could boast of having the best display on the market. The OnePlus 7 Pro holds that title rather firmly, and even a device like the Asus ROG Phone 2 is better—depending on who you ask. Camera performance is a similar scenario. The Google Pixel 3 holds its own against the Note 10 phones, and so does the Huawei P30 Pro. Oh, and in two months, we’ll be getting the Pixel 4 and Mate 30 Pro, two devices that are likely to be able to outperform the Galaxy Note 10 phones in most shooting conditions.
Samsung may have mitigated that by using its new, more impressive 64 MP ISOCELL Bright GW1 on the phones but it chose not to, for reasons best known to it. The company for some reason has taken to reserving its best hardware for other OEMs.
Then, there’s the headphone jack. Talking about the jack at this point would be akin to flogging a dead horse...but it has to be done. For the first time, Samsung removed the 3.5mm jack on a flagship phone. Rumors dating back to late 2018 claimed that the company would do so but most enthusiasts may have hung on to a sliver of hope, right until the official launch. Tough luck, mates. The jack is gone.
The argument over the headphone jack is one that has raged across the Internet for almost three years, since Apple made that infernal choice on the iPhone 7 duo back in 2016.
“Get with the times, old man. Nobody uses a headphone jack anymore!”
“Digital connectors provide better audio quality anyway!”
“My wireless headphones are way more convenient!”
There are arguments for the headphone jack that soundly debunk all of the points made by the no-jack crowd but, again, this discourse is overplayed. Instead, the efficient reply is: And so? The headphone jack is an option that in no way prevents users from making use of their digital or wireless alternatives if they so prefer. Keeping the headphone jack costs nothing. Removing it, on the other hand, is an affront to audio purists. It’s also a kick to the shin of anyone sensible enough to realize the convenience of being able to listen to Hi-Fi audio while charging their phones at the same time.
And Samsung removed it from the Galaxy Note 10 phones. For what? To be able to add an extra 100 mAh battery? To be able to improve the haptic system of the phones? Or to be able to sell more accessories while keeping up with trends in a market that, for no reason, seems to have cast off the port we’ve all come to love, without offering any adequate alternatives? Take your pick.
In spite of these all, the biggest issue with the Galaxy Note 10 launch is the existence of the Galaxy Note 10 itself. The Note 10+ may be forgiven but the regular Note 10 spits in the eye of everything we’ve come to know about the Galaxy Note series. A FHD+ display and a 3500 mAh battery. We now live in a world where the Galaxy S10+ is, by far, a better device than what has traditionally been Samsung’s greatest release of the year.
Make no mistake about it, the base Galaxy Note 10 is no true Note 10; it is a Lite phone. A Galaxy Note 10e. A Galaxy Note 10 Mini. A means by which Samsung could offer an upsell in the form of the Note 10+. The Note 10 is, by most metrics, a worse phone than the Note 9.
After months of waiting with bated breath, the world’s biggest smartphone vendor chose to offer millions of fans out there with a cruel joke, the US$949 Note 10 being an even more offensive punchline. Once upon a time, one could rely on the Galaxy Note to encompass all the good things Android has to offer. We’re past those days, and there’s a feeling in the air that, just like the LG V20, the Galaxy Note 9 may come to be regarded as the last great Android flagship.
Darker days are coming, and we'd best be prepared.